Muhammad Ali

Second year engineering science student

Muhammad was one of the first in his family to go to university. He explains why studying engineering science makes him happy.

Maths and physics have always been my strongest subjects, but I didn’t get interested in engineering until sixth form. My physics teacher ran an aeronautical society, and took us on field trips. If I had 15 spare minutes, I’d read an aviation magazine for fun.

Don’t limit yourself to the subjects you study at school. Read about different careers. Ask for advice from people who’ve done what you want to do. If something interests you, just go for it. If you enjoy your subject, you’ll excel.

Engineering is really interesting. You see how the maths you studied at school is used to solve real world problems. I started off wanting to specialize in aeronautical engineering (designing and building aircraft), but I’m keeping my options open. At the moment I’m interested in biomedical engineering, which mixes biology, medicine and engineering to find new ways to keep people healthy.

Being Muslim and coming from Tower Hamlets in London, I thought it would be difficult to start at the University of Oxford. My mum and dad didn’t go to university, but they taught my siblings and me to work hard. When I got here, I got involved with the Islamic Society and found many people from the same background. It’s much easier when you find a community.

I’ve done a lot of volunteering. My dad works with vulnerable adults and during the holidays I volunteer to help run activities. Engineering will also give me that opportunity to help people and give back.

Best advice

Don’t just focus on schoolwork – do everything you can to broaden your horizons. I did things to push me out of my comfort zone, like debating and music, even though I wasn’t that good at it.

How do you relax?

At school I did any sport going – gymnastics, football, hockey. I’ve always been part of my local football club.